The mother of out opera star Melody Moore likes to remind her daughter that the musical name Mom chose for her is the reason for Moore’s success on the opera stage.
“She never really lets it go,” jokes the celebrated soprano, who will “hunker down” with her mom in Kingwood when Moore, who is based in Los Angeles, portrays Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni April 20-May 5 at Houston Grand Opera (HGO).
Moore can thank HGO for the modified pixie cut that has replaced the “longer mane” she wore at the beginning of her career. Five years ago, the bald cap she wore to play an Auschwitz inmate in HGO’s The Passenger was so uncomfortable that she had her hair cut “real, real, real short, basically a buzz cut.” Since letting it grow out to a sportier style, she says, “It fits me perfectly. It’s totally Melody Moore.”
The Tennessee native moved to the Houston area when she was 10. “My parents had a ministry in the Assemblies of God, so when we would go to homeless and women’s shelters they would put me on a table and I would sing.”
However, when she enrolled at Kingwood High School, Moore expanded her musical repertoire far beyond “Bringing in the Sheaves.” Her gay choir director, the late David Stotlar, introduced her to Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms while coaching her to victories in all-state choir competitions.
Stotlar also served as a model of authenticity for all of his students.
“I loved him so much,” says Moore. “He never bowed to anyone or anything. He was out, proud, and flamboyant. He was quippy and ‘queery.’ I knew we had something in common, but I didn’t know how to say it.”
Moore discovered what that “something” was when she got to college, on a voice scholarship to Louisiana State University. She spoke about coming out as a lesbian, and how it coincided with her evolution as a singer, in her interview with OutSmart in October 2014: “My coming out was my first journey into what I call ‘harsh truth’—which, to me, is a crucial truth that has some pain associated with it, and one that must be told, regardless of the result. Interestingly enough, my life became better as I became more truthful—and so did my music.”
Coming out also caused a schism with her parents—a situation that required time to heal. “Not only does it get better,” says Moore, “but it gets so good that you pinch yourself. That’s my life now.”
Moore’s wife of four years, Nicole Wagner, hopes to join the opera star in Houston this month. “Talk about the sunshine!” says Moore. “I feel like she somehow pulls me into her force field. It’s a love like that.”
Moore’s character in Don Giovanni should have it so good. “She is very strong, but she is put through quite the ringer,” says Moore. “I like her quite a bit. After she is bamboozled by this serial rapist—this power-hungry, deranged megalomaniac—she wants to warn people about him, not because she wants to give him a bad name but because she is a rule-follower. She believes that right should win and people should behave in a respectful way. She blows the whistle even though she has everything to lose and not much to gain.”
This will be the fourth time for Moore to portray the noblewoman Donna Elvira, “but the first time in over a decade,” she says. “I am looking forward to seeing what she looks like in the rehearsal room. I want to see what she has learned in the past 10 years. To me, she has her own voice. That is how I approach a role. [I’ll also be] considering what we’ve learned from the #MeToo movement, and from women getting a foothold into more places. All of that will play into the role.”
What: Don Giovanni
When: April 20—May 5
Where: Houston Grand Opera (HGO)